Kabbalah 101: Secrets of Creation

We're broadcasting today's lesson from one of creation's classrooms - a citrus orchard east of Ashdod. You'll soon see why...

Today, we'll learn one of the amazing secrets of creation, revealed right in the beginning of Kabbalistic writings. You'll see how one of G-d's names is the mathematical key to unlocking secrets of creation. Don't miss this, it's an eye-opener:

Secrets of Creation from lazerbrody on Vimeo.

5 Responsible Ways to Lose Body Fat

Body Fat 22.7
Mark went on a diet to be slimmer for the beach season. He dropped 30 pounds, from 190 to 160, in a relatively short time. But, he didn't look any better. What's more, at 190, he could do 50 pushups but now at 160 he can barely do 32. What did he do wrong? Fad diet? "Guaranteed quick weight loss"? Both, and more. Mark lost weight irresponsibly...

Don't make the same mistake. Read this, because we want for you what you want for yourself - to look better and to feel better.

The classic weight-loss mantra says, "Burn more calories than you take in, and fat comes off." That's not so simple. If the calorie deficit comes from merely eating less calories than you burn, without incorporating exercise into the equation, then the body will relinquish muscle mass much quicker than it will burn fat. What's more, muscle weighs much more than fat! So, don't let the scale fool you. With that in mind, let me give you several key signs that you're losing muscle mass rather than fat:

  1. You feel sluggish and your every-day functioning is impaired;
  2. You've lost a lot of weight in a short time;
  3. Your body has shrinking circumferences, but your pinch-fat is the same. Since you've lost muscle mass, your body-fat percentage is even higher than it was when you weighed more and you've actually lost strength (#1, above). What's more, when merely losing weight (muscle mass) rather than fat, your body won't be more attractive; quite the opposite...

To avoid the above three signs, our goal should be losing fat, not losing weight. The tightness of your skirt or trousers is a much better indication of fat loss than the bathroom scale is. Stay away from crash diets that offer quick results of weight loss. So, instead of losing weight, let's talk about losing body fat, and doing so responsibly. Here are five ways to do just that:

  1. Lift weights: lifting weights builds muscle and muscle is catabolic, meaning that it fuels metabolism even when it's not toiling. I prefer body-weight and free-weight exercises to weight machines. You don't even need weights - carry home the grocery bags from the supermarket. 
  2. Get daily cardio: walking or riding a bike for 30 minutes daily is great, but the more cardio is versified, the faster the fat will fall away. I try to do wind-sprints or running up sand dunes at least once a week. Incorporate plyometric exercises like burpees and HIIT at least once a week and you'll further fuel your metabolic fat-burning capability.
  3. Split your meals: rather than eating humongous meals, take the Rambam's advice and eat well below your stomach's capacity. The four or five smaller meals are preferable to the two or three tremendous ones, for the body will burn the smaller meals' calories much more efficiently.
  4. Drink cold water, and lots of it: water has no calories! If it's cold, your body will have to burn calories to maintain its 36.8C (98.6F) body temperature. What's more, water is essential for your brain and heart's proper function, your energy level and for keeping your body waste-free.
  5. Consume healthy snacks: prefer fruits and veggies over carbs. Celery sticks, with their high fiber content, will make the body work hard and burn calories.

Wait and see how quickly and favorably your body reacts to the above five points. The results will be encouraging, but be patient and don't give up! There's no reason in the world that you shouldn't look and feel great, especially now in the summer. Blessings for your success, and let us know how you progress! Yours always, LB

The Soul Correction and Second Chance

Sometimes we find ourselves in the exact place or circumstance where earlier in our life, we had some type of setback or misdeed, not acting in a way that we'd be proud of today. This is a gift from Above, enabling us to perform a soul correction on ourselves, in this lifetime. Enjoy this encouraging 90-second clip and have a lovely Shabbat!

The Soul Correction and Second Chance from lazerbrody on Vimeo.

Togetherness and Good Health

Healthy Together 16.7
Does this sound familiar?

Your spouse or the someone you care about is overweight and sorely out of shape. Whenever he/she gets pressured by anything, they console themselves with chocolate croissants or donuts. You've tried everything to get them to diet and/or exercise, but even if they loses two pounds in one week, they'll gain back four the next. What do you do? You're trying your very best not to look at attractive members of the opposite sex, but with your partner more and more turning you off, it's getting to be increasingly challenging...

The above scenario is a compendium of real ones that I deal with in personal, health and fitness coaching. The more I've been hearing such stories, the more I felt the need to lay out a few guidelines that will likely help you and your spouse to improve your quality of life, physical and emotional health and relationship as well. Try implementing the following suggestions:

  1. Your prayers for your spouse are formidable, much more powerful than you can ever imagine. Invest a few minutes of prayer for them in your own words. Ask the Almighty to uplift their self-esteem and to help you give them the love and attention that they need so that they won't have to find solace in sweets, which are poison for the body.
  2. Buy your spouse a gift of a new pair of walking shoes and take walks together; start with a few minutes and work it up to an hour, at least three times a week. If you have small children, it's worth it to pay a babysitter during this hour. You can't imagine what it will do for your health and relationship.
  3. Diet never helps. You must influence your spouse to change their thinking and lifestyle, but this should be done as a couple, for they'll be much more willing if it's done together. Cakes, cookies, ice-cream and other sweets as well as soft-drinks and other sugary manufactured foods should be considered taboo, for these substances destroy health. Together, go on an eating regiment (lifestyle, not diet!) that is based on foodstuffs that are unadulterated by manufacturers. Get all white sugar, corn syrup solids and modified starches out of your life - that includes cereals, cakes, cookies and most manufactured foods. Compensate with the best fruits, veggies, fish, meat and poultry, and cheeses. Once you lower carbs, you can enjoy nuts and seeds without worrying about gaining weight.
  4. Like all of us, your spouse thrives on love. Make the first move and give him/her that love, and I promise that they'll bend over backwards to please you. Meanwhile, offer your spouse the incentive of a nice chuck of money to buy new clothes every time they drops a size or two. The new clothes will cost only be a fraction of doctors and meds required for treating the ailments that result from neglecting diet and health.

Start with the above four steps and keep me posted. I'd love to reprint your success stories. Remember, togetherness is the beginning of good health and real happiness. You'll be amazed to see how soon, you'll look like a magazine cover couple. My prayers for your success and good health. Blessings always, LB

Body Politic

"Shavua Tov", blessings for a wonderful new week. You haven't heard from my in over a week because I lost my beautiful and beloved 93-year-young mother on Friday 5, 2019 and finished the "Shiva" seven-day mourning period right before the Sabbath. I'm still in the USA, where my wonderful sibs and I have been together in recent weeks, and hopefully will return home to Israel later this week. It's good to be back with you here at "Strength and Serenity":

A lot of the fad diets have penetrated the Jewish world, which is infamous for unhealthy eating especially on Shabbat. For example, after Shabbat morning services, many congregations sponsor a "Kiddush" brunch of Coca Cola, liquor and pastry, followed by a meal of white Challa, potato and noodle kugels and cholent, with desserts of more cakes, roasted nuts and parve ice cream. Sure, one "cheat day" a week is legitimate, when we loosen up on our diet discipline and partake of a sweet or two, but that doesn't mean a total lack of restraint and going carb-crazy.

What happens? Many have turned to fad diets that promise quick weight loss. And guess what - the quickest weight loss results from loss of muscle mass. Muscle weighs a lot more than fat. Therefore, don't be impressed when you see that adherents of the fad diets have lost tons of weight, fast. Notice that they don't exercise. As a result, their bodies look like big empty burlap sacks draped on bone. At least when they were fat, their muscles had to work to carry the extra weight. But now, nothing. No muscle tone, just empty flab.

Modern society has become so focused on weight loss, that any weight loss seems to be good. It certainly is not. You look better and feel better when you increase your muscle-to-fat ratio. In other words, by exercising and increasing caloric intake - especially with quality protein and good HDL-producing fats - you gain weight big time without adding a millimeter to your waist or hips. In fact, your trousers or skirt fits better than ever.

The impressive initial weight loss of the "effortless" fad diets comes from losing the strategic and vital area of your body - your muscle mass. Therefore, the goal of dieting should be to improve body composition, the percentage or ratio of muscle to body fat, like we said. You do that by losing fat without losing muscle tissue. Maintaining and even increasing muscle mass is critical to weight control, because the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. What's more, as you exercise and add resistance/strength training to your routine, you can actually look thinner and have a smaller waistline, but the scale shows that you gained weight! How can that be? Simple - muscles take up less space in your body, so body weight may stay the same or even go up as you add compact, tight muscle mass. In density, muscle is 22% more dense than fat. In other words, if you've been doing strength /resistance training, your waist is thinner, your skirt or trousers fit great, you look and feel great, but you weigh more! Maybe at 145 lbs, you could only do 20 pushups, but now at 155, you can do 50! Yes, you weigh more but you're much more healthy. Keep on liftin', bro and sis, and put the bathroom scale in the closet!

That's what I call "Body Politic". So, forget about your weight and just be strong and healthy. When you eat right - as natural as possible - and exercise, you'll burn fat and build muscle anyway. G-d willing, we hope to post more body-health and fitness pointers in the near future. Stick with us and meanwhile, stay healthy!


Skydiver 5.7
If you ask people what frustrates them more than anything else, and really probe to the core reason, the’ll most likely answer that situations where they're not in control are probably the worst sources of frustration. A person doesn’t mind a normal headache so much if he or she can take a glass of water and two aspirins, which from experience, they know will relieve a good measure of his pain within the next thirty minutes. But they can’t stand the inexplicable migraine that doesn’t succumb to the pain killers. Why? They can’t control it…

Now ask a person what the worst type of dream is. Many will answer, the free-fall, when a person feels like he’s falling in space, usually waking up in a cold sweat right before he crashes to the ground. What an utter feeling of no control!

Skydiving is a very popular sport. Those who skydive live and breathe their skydiving. But let’s ask ourselves: are all the skydivers daft? The answer is certainly not. I’ve known skydivers who are level-headed former paratroopers and combat veterans, some of whom with advanced degrees from university. How can they allow themselves to jump out of airplanes? They perform a free-fall for so many seconds then either pull the cord that opens their parachute or else their parachute opens automatically. They can’t control the speed that they’re falling downward. So what’s the difference between the skydiver and the person free-falling in a nightmare?

One word: trust.

The skydiver trusts that the parachute will open. The free-faller in the dream has nothing to trust.

Someone stopped me in the street recently in my hometown of Ashdod, visibly worried. “What’s going to happen, Reb Lazer? What's with Hizbulla's thousands of missiles aimed at us and we don't even have a functioning government to do anything about it? Have you heard? Iran is about to is about to clash with the Americans in the Persian Gulf at Hormuz, and if so, we’ll probably get attacked with missiles. There's a big chance that we'll get dragged into a war soon. Hey, and I haven’t even mentioned the Atom bomb that the Iranians will have any day. They’re all planning to destroy is. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem is calling on all the Arabs to kill all the Jews. And if all that isn’t bad enough, Yair Lapid could very well be the next prime minister in Israel. We won’t be able to send our children to cheder any more…”

“Slow down, my friend,” I injected at the opportune time, when he stopped to take a breath. “You’ve been listening to a lot of news lately."

“But I must be informed! I can’t live like an ostrich with his head in the ground,” he said, slighted by my suggestion that he’s spending too much time on CNN, YNet and Foxnews.

“Be honest with yourself,” I said. “You’re uncomfortable being in a situation where you’re not in control.”

He stopped and thought. The man had a kipa on his head and was obviously an observant Jew. “I never thought of it that way, but now that you mention it, I think you’re right, Reb Lazer.”

“It’s up to us to do what we can and to make the most productive use of our time. We have the control and the free choice to open up the computer or to open up a Gemara. We can spend an inconsequential hour on Facebook or we can put on our walking shoes and use that hour to walk a few miles and talk to Hashem in personal prayer. Why fret about the things we can’t control when there’s so much more to do in the realm of things we can control? Besides, who is presumptuous enough to think that he can run the world better than Hashem can?”

“But I believe in Hashem,” the man said defensively. “I just have to do my hishtadlut, my own effort, to stay informed.” 

“Our hishtadlut is to strengthen our emuna and our trust in Hashem. He runs the world and He is doing everything not only for the very best, but for our ultimate benefit both on a personal and a national level.” I continued to explain that when we’re worried or up tight, there’s no reason in the world to feel out of control. We can take a time out, push the “reset” button on our brain, and go speak to Hashem in solitary personal prayer for an hour. That’s real control...."

The man unfortunately preferred to perpetuate his worry and anxiety rather than living the sweet life of emuna and trust. Maybe the suggestion to swap Facebook for a walk and talk with the Creator sounded look fairy tales to him. Too bad that people prefer to live their lives as terrified free-fallers, never knowing when the crash moment of doom will arrive, rather than living the exhilarating live of a skydiver who knows that the parachute always opens at the right time.

It’s great being a skydiver when Hashem is your parachute...

I wrote this post to strengthen myself, for I have now returned to the USA urgently because of my mother's rapid health deterioration. Her Hebrew name is Chasia bas Kaila. 

A Lesson from Rebbe Oshiya of Tiria: Connecting with the Creator

From the Upper Galilee near the ancient town of Peki'in, we visit the holy gravesite of the "Amora", the early 4th Century CE Talmudic sage Rebbe Oshiya of Tiria, from whom we learn what it means to truly be connected to the Creator as a person of faith, not merely "religious"... Enjoy this 2-minute clip:

The Lesson of Rebbe Oshiya of Tiria from lazerbrody on Vimeo.

The Lesson of a Rubber Ball

Rubber Ball 1.7
When we were little kids, a rubber ball was something that was passed down from an older sibling. It lasted forever. Rubber balls were lost, but they were never destroyed, unless they were run over with a Mack truck...

The other day, I went out for a power-walk carrying a brand new rubber "guaranteed grip developing" ball, made in China. One of my neighbors, a religious Karate teacher, gave it to me. He carries these things around all the time, and goes through them like a person eating popcorn. Subconsciously, I expected the little ball to last for a long time. But, by the time my walk was barely halfway through, the ball disintegrated. Luckily, Ashdod is well equipped with adequate trash bins in our many parks and walkways, for that's exactly where the little disposable ball found its fate.

Car enthusiasts, do you remember the old '56 Ford with the classic straight V-6 engine that was so simple to maintain? There were plenty of them on the road in the early 1980's, for any normal driver could get 25 years out of that car. Today's cars, with all their sophistication, look like absolute jalopies after seven or eight years, if they last that long.

Any honest computer dealer will tell you to praise Hashem if you're able to squeeze four years of use out of your new computer; they're not built to last any longer.

Remember the old battle-ax mechanical washing machines? Only Sherman tanks were built stronger. People used to buy a new washing machine once in a lifetime. Nowadays, with the electronic cycles and easy-erodible bodies, don't expect the washing machine to last any longer than five or six years at best.

Yes, that little rubber ball disintegrating in my hand during my walk triggered some probing thought; for sure, the Almighty was teaching me something about body and soul...

The cheapo rubber ball showed me that the more society modernizes and becomes sophisticated, the more it renders things cheap and disposable, for limited use only, then to be discarded.

Look at marriage today. Many people change their partners like they change their socks. The more that the family unit and the sanctity of the marital unit break down, the more marriage becomes a disposable commodity. People treat each other like throw-away utensils - used once, then discarded. Hollywood and the media glorify cheapness; no wonder people treat each other cheaply.

Notice that the more something is spiritual, the longer it lasts and the greater its value. Why? The spiritual world closely resembles The Creator; like Him, it is eternal. The wisdom of Torah, unlike hi-tech, doesn't become outdated after a few short years. 

Let's take a necessary deeper look at ourselves. Each of us has two sides; a disposable side (the body), and an indestructible everlasting side (the soul). The body is here today and gone tomorrow, destined to decompose in the earth (and that's as gentle as one can describe...). Yet the soul, a priceless tiny part of G-dliness, lasts for posterity.

Isn't it ridiculous to invest so much in something that's finite and disposable while neglecting something that lasts forever? Why do we so carefully select our clothes yet exercise so little discretion about what affects our souls? Why do we choose a hairdresser or investment broker with far more care than we'd choose a spiritual guide? Why do we happily sit for two hours watching an inconsequential Major-league baseball game on TV yet begrudge our souls 30 measly minutes of being alone and conversing with G-d every day?

Since we lack spiritual priorities, we make our bodies even more disposable than they already are.

If a person regards his or her body as the housing of the soul, then according to our sages, the body earns a measure of immortality; the more a body becomes subservient to the soul, the less it is subject to the process of decomposing. In this generation, bodies of truly righteous men whose graves were moved, were found completely intact - literally fresh - after years of burial. One such example is the body of the holy Karliner Rebbe, Rebbe Yochanan Perlov of saintly and blessed memory, whose grave was moved from Brooklyn to Tiberias in the 1950's.

People who don't treat their bodies as housings of the soul do terrible things to their bodies, such as filling them with junk food, alcohol, and tobacco. Here's a rule of thumb: any type of indulgence or substance that is detrimental to the body is also detrimental to the soul. How? The Creator created the body to serve the soul. No wonder that such despicable diseases such as AIDS come from bodily indulgence that is devastating to the soul. 

Before we do anything in life, we should ask ourselves what we're doing and why we're doing it. Part of our daily self-assessment should be evaluating whether we're investing in the disposable or the eternal side of ourselves. Those who do such daily self-assessment saves themselves limitless anguish - both physical and spiritual - both in this world and in the next.

Nurturing a personal connection with G-d is an investment for posterity. Let's increase its percentage in our life's portfolio. Why make the world - and our own limited go-around on this earth - more disposable than they already are? Have a happy and meaningful summer with all the right priorities, amen!

Yearning for Shabbat

Yearning for Shabbat
With thanks to the Almighty, I'm back home safely in the Land of Israel and my beautiful hometown of Ashdod, just in time for Shabbat. I call the photo above (doctored image), "Yearning for Shabbat" - it conveys the soul's elated feeling as the Friday afternoon sun sets over the Mediterranean, ushering in the Sabbath Queen. Nothing is so conducive to body-soul health as our holy day of rest. Blessings for a lovely Shabbat and for all your heart's wishes for the very best. Yours always, LB

The Wallflower

Wallflower 26.6
Dear Rabbi Lazer,

I'm 16, going into eleventh grade, and very unhappy. My best girlfriend is really popular at school and shul (we're conservative), and I'm not. In all honesty, I'm just as attractive as she is, and my grades are just as good as hers. At first, I thought maybe my clothes were out of style, so I went out and begged my mom to buy be the same clothes as my girlfriend. But, at any party or function, people flock to her and I feel like a tagalong. It’s really the pits. I do my best to talk and act like my girlfriend, but she's considered campus queen and I'm ignored like a wallflower. Rabbi, can you give me some kind of spiritual advice to make me popular too? I know you're busy with serious problems, but this is hurts me a lot, so please try to give me a quick answer. And thanks for the advice you give on your blog. Respectfully, Melanie from Canada

Dear Melanie,

Imagine that a tractor didn't like its own appearance, and tried to imitate a Mercedes. The whole world would laugh! Then, the tractor would neither perform its function as a tractor - plowing fields, hauling produce, and the like - and certainly would fail miserably as a Mercedes. On the other hand, if a Mercedes tried to do the job of a tractor, it would get stuck in the mud and fail within a minute.

Melanie, The Almighty gave you your own very special package of abilities and aptitudes for performing your task in this world. When you try to be someone else, you have a double failure: First, you can't succeed in being the other person, because you lack the emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual tools that Hashem gave to that person. Second, when you attempt to be someone you're not, you fail to develop and to utilize your own unique Heaven-imbued attributes and skills.

The Talmud teaches that when a person seeks prestige, prestige eludes the person. Stop trying to be popular, and don't try to imitate your girlfriend. Be yourself: How? Act, speak, and dress in a manner that's natural and comfortable for you. Often, it's better to sit at home reading a good book, writing a poem or an entry to your diary, or baking a cake for Shabbat than it is to hang out with a bunch of peers that just gossip and waste time, if they don’t do things much worse. Also, stop tagging along as your girlfriend's prime groupie. Accept the fact that she's classroom queen. You should start fulfilling your own role as a cherished daughter of the King (Hashem) - the daughter of The King beats the classroom queen any day of the week.

When we need the approval of others, we become emotionally cripple because we make our happiness depend on the way they react to us. Not only is that ridiculous on our part, but being an emotional cripple and dependent on others for approval is just as problematic as being a physical cripple who might be dependent on crutches. The only way to attain true emotional freedom from peer pressure and from others is to cling to Hashem – that will give you tremendous strength.

One additional important point: When high school boys flock around you, they're not looking to discuss the Rambam, European history or the theory of relativity. Being popular with them is dead-end cheap popularity. Genuine popularity comes from being an upright human - compassionate, kind, charitable, modest, yet firm and courageous in your beliefs.

The entire world respects the bold nonconformist that stands up for his or her principles. Do you know why? It’s simple - Hashem respects such a person. When The Almighty is pleased with a person's actions, He grants that person a divine aura, an indescribable spiritual light that emanates from the face and serves as a magnet to attract other people. Possessing such a divine aura is genuine popularity.

I do suggest that you eat healthfully and get regular exercise, especially during these summer months. The better you feel in shape, the more self-confidence you'll have.

Thanks for writing, Melanie. May Hashem help you make the right choices in life. Blessings always, LB